"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shinji Higuchi Unleashes GEHARA!!


Mock movie poster for GEHARA in Old Skool-style. ©NHK 2009

Cult writer/Artist/Painter Master Jun Miura has teamed up with visual effects wizard Shinji Higuchi to create a 15-minute monster short for the NHK network's late-night series PLAY TV: PERFORM! (Tereasobi Pafoo!). The mini-movie, entitled GEHARA: THE LONG-HAIRED GIANT MONSTER (Chohatsu Daikaiju Gehara), will be broadcast as part of a 50-minute special on February 24th at 12:10 AM (Japan time). Over 325 entries were submitted to the producers when the project was announced last year.

Miura's plot features the monster-beleaguered nation of Japan being invaded by a bizarre colossal beast, with flowing black locks, and a newspaper reporter following the unfolding story. What makes this creature unique among Godzilla kith and kin, is that Gehara’s origins are rooted in traditional Japanese ghost stories, such as “The Black Hair” (Kurogami) featured in Masaki Kobayashi’s KWAIDAN (1964) and Sion Sono’s EXTE (2007).

But, this will not be a straight monster movie, rather, this mini-movie is yet another parody of the genre — on the heels of Minoru Kawasaki’s MONSTER X STRIKES BACK (2008) — in fact, one of the Self Defense Force plans to stop Gehara is called "Operation: Perm" (!), which features a Maser Cannon-like mobile weapon, looking suspiciously like a giant hair dryer on tank treads. Even though this is not being played straight, the involvement of Miura, who created and wrote the film, and Higuchi, who was the visual effects wizard behind the 1990s Gamera trilogy, should prove for interesting viewing.

Gehara raises it's shaggy head. ©NHK 2009

Directing his first professional feature is visual effects designer Kiyotaka Taguchi, whose low-budget indie kaiju eiga, simply titled “G”, has been wowing Youtube viewers with several clips and trailers, and is now on its way to make rounds at film festivals, starting next week at the world-renown Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in Hokkaido, Japan. While the jury hasn't come in on the relative directorial talents of Taguchi, apparently, Higuchi, Miura and NHK are banking on him with GEHARA, which will also be screening at Yubari.

In the original treatment, the mysterious creature Gehara (the name is an anagram from the Japanese word “hige” or “beard” and “Ra” from “Gojira”) comes ashore during a monstrous typhoon, and begins to wreck havoc upon Tokyo. Eventually, the hairy beast is seemingly stopped by the Self Defense Forces’ Operation: Tokyo Drain. As a result, the beast is sucked into the city’s sewer system, but it begins to clog the works with its long hair, and ends up in a culvert. Left for dead, Gehara begins to revive, absorbing massive amounts of water beneath the streets of Tokyo’s fashionable Shibuya Ward, and it's long hair begins to grow… In the film, the monster attacks the city of Kanezawa.

Gehara tangles up Tokyo's usually reliable train system. ©NHK 2009

Higuchi and Miura have assembled an impressive cast for GEHARA: Ken Osawa (SAMURAI FICTION) as Newspaper Reporter Hideo Akihara, San Diego-born Mina Fujii as Momoko Akihara, Mitsuko Oka (VIRUS) as Tsuruko Akihara, Shiro Sano (GODZILLA 2000) as Professor Mikami, Tomorowo Taguchi (BULLET BALLET) as the Shrine Priest, Kanji Tsuda (GAMERA THE BRAVE) as Kubo the Fisherman, Hiroyuki Watanabe (ULTRAMAN GAIA) as JSDF Commander, Pierre Taki (ALWAYS: SUNSET ON THIRD STREET) as the Tank Commander and producer/commentator Terry Ito. While the film's score is credited to Akira Ifukube!

Will GEHARA: THE LONG-HAIRED GIANT MONSTER grow to become a fan favorite, or will it be cut to ribbons by critics?

• UPDATE 03/06/09: Watch the first eight minutes of GEHARA here! Then watch the last thee minutes (plus previews for the "next episode") here!

Link: NHK’s Official GEHARA Website
Link: Clip from NHK's 『テレ遊び パフォー!』(Play TV: Perform!)


Prof. Grewbeard said...

great news!

Godzilla2000master said...

Kick ass. I feel especialy safe since Mr. Higuchi is taking part of this mini-film.

Prof. Grewbeard said...

i just checked out the links. combining the two, was that the entire film?...

Lone Wolf said...

This looks totally amazing an fun, love the nod to the old, but yet still has some unique style & originality. I also love the promo poster art, totally amazing!! I guess my only complaint is the humor factor, would have been KILLER to keep the flow of full seriousness!!